Your body goes through many significant changes pre- and post-partum and will inevitably look different after having a baby. One of the more ‘embarrassing’ and ‘problematic’ changes to a woman’s body post-partum is the sudden appearance of purplish-red so-called ‘tiger stripes’ along their breasts and tummies.
While we think it is important to acknowledge how wonderful and amazing women’s bodies are for being able to create life, this side effect of pregnancy does leave many new moms feeling insecure and unconfident in their post-baby body which may have both a negative emotional and mental impact.
Therefore, in this article, we hope to give you a broader understanding of what exactly post-partum stretch marks are, as well as information on what causes them, and how to predict whether you are likely to develop post-partum stretch marks. We will also be looking at whether it is possible to remove stretch marks and will be talking about some helpful tips and tricks to help you fade them faster. Watch out for our section on the best products and creams to aid your post-partum stretch mark recovery!
Without further delay, let us dive right in with a discussion on what stretch marks are. We hope you follow along!
“What is ‘Post-Partum Stretch Marks’ and Why Am I Getting Them?”
Explaining What Stretch Marks Are:
Primarily, let us begin by explaining what stretch marks are in case you do not already know, or if you are simply searching for terminology that will better aid you in talking about this topic yourself. Stretch marks – or as they are medically called, striae – are easily identifiable visually. They are usually purplish-red, reddish-brown or pinkish depressed linear streaks (colours differ depending on skin tone) which can appear along the waist, belly, breasts, thighs, arms and legs of people who experienced rapid weight loss or gain. This of course includes pregnant women. Unsurprisingly about 50-90% of pregnant individuals report developing striae gravidarum, or pregnancy stretch marks.
Understanding What Causes Post-Partum Stretch Marks:
“So, what causes these post-partum stretch marks?” is probably the next question you have in your head. Well, as the name itself indicates, “stretch” marks are caused when the skin is stretched. Rapid stretching of the skin causes tears in the supportive structures in your skin’s tissue, particularly in the middle and bottom layers of the skin. The middle layer of skin (also medically known as the dermis) becomes stretched and broken in some places. This then creates a scar which appears as the marks you see on your skin.
In pregnancy, a person’s belly tends to grow very quickly as the baby takes up more and more space in the second and third trimesters. Moreso, a pregnant person’s body has an excessive amount of the cortisol hormone which may be responsible for weakening the elastic fibres in the skin and thereby making post-partum stretch marks more likely to appear.
Can You Predict Whether or Not You Will Get Post-Partum Stretch Marks?
Honestly, it is difficult to say as many factors contribute to whether or not your body develops stretch marks. For example, your specific skin type may be a factor as some people naturally have more elastic skin. Further still, whether you will develop stretch marks could be determined by if your family has a history of developing stretch marks during pregnancy. Some experts say that a family history of developing stretch marks after growth spurts can make a person genetically more likely to develop post-partum stretch marks.
You are also more likely to get post-partum stretch marks if you gain more weight than average during your pregnancy. While weight gain during pregnancy differs from woman to woman, the average weight gain during pregnancy is about 10kg to 12,5kg (25 to 35 pounds), so gaining more weight than this could be an indicator of whether you will get post-partum stretch marks.
You are also more likely to get post-partum stretch marks if you are pregnant with multiples, your baby is very big, or you have an excess of amniotic fluid. This is because the quicker and more your skin stretches, the more likely you are to develop stretch marks.
Can You Prevent Post-Partum Stretch Marks?
One way to possibly prevent post-partum stretch marks is to watch what you eat while you are pregnant. Of course, you must not diet to lose weight while you are pregnant! This is bad for both you and the baby. But try to eat a healthy and balanced diet and this could help prevent excessive weight gain and the development of post-partum stretch marks.
Some people also swear by using certain skin products as a way to prevent post-partum stretch marks. This includes some creams and oils, although there is no reliable scientific evidence to back up these claims. It can be noted that one study found that stretch marks could not be prevented, but that some moisturizers used during pregnancy could help reduce their severity.
If you are determined to try to prevent them, there is some evidence that products with Cantella or hyaluronic acid may help your skin’s elasticity which may help prevent developing severe stretch marks. Other ingredients that may help lessen stretch marks include cocoa butter, vitamin E, olive oil or almond oil – however, no studies show that these ingredients are effective.
“I Have Post-Partum Stretch Marks. Do They Go Away and Can I Get Rid of Them?”
Do Post-Partum Stretch Marks Go Away on Their Own?
Well, the answer to this question is yes but no.
While post-partum stretch marks are likely to begin to fade and become less noticeable in about six to twelve months after birth, it is unlikely that stretch marks will fade 100% completely as if they were never there. They can lighten significantly as the pigmentation starts to fade and visually become more difficult to see as they become about a shade lighter than your normal skin tone. However, it is unlikely that your skin’s texture will recover.
What Can I Do to Get Rid of Post-Partum Stretch Marks?
To put it simply – you will probably not be able to banish the post-partum stretch marks entirely using creams and oils. However, you can find some ways to minimise them. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist and they can prescribe you ointments and medications to aid your body in recovery.
One research study found that products claiming to contain active ingredients capable of removing stretch were not at all effective! However, some topical prescription ointments like tretinoin (also called Retin-A) cream may be able to lighten the stretch marks. It should be noted that this cream is not typically safe to use during breastfeeding and needs to be used very soon after childbirth or it will not be effective. Some dermatologists may also prescribe glycolic acid as a skin recovery aid.
Glycolic acid peels are cosmetic procedures done by a doctor, plastic surgeon or dermatologist to exfoliate skin and stimulate collagen production. Research has found that these treatments as especially effective for the treatment of scars, but some research is still needed to evaluate their effectiveness on stretch marks.
One other treatment is called microdermabrasion which is used to help make skin tone and texture better. A study in 2014, and one in 2015 showed that this procedure was relatively effective for treating stretch marks. A similar procedure shown to be somewhat better than microdermabrasion in treating stretch marks is called micro needling. This procedure involves using fine needles to puncture the skin which then rejuvenates as these tiny injuries heal. A study showed that stretch marks improved after about four treatments.
Other forms of treatment for post-partum stretch marks include laser therapy. This treatment involves infrared light that is beamed over the damaged skin. Over multiple sessions over many weeks, this laser therapy can help post-partum stretch mark recovery. There is some proof that laser treatments are capable of restoring the skin’s elasticity. Moreover, this form of treatment can help by changing the skin’s pigmentation so that the stretch marks blend in better with the rest of the skin and are therefore less visible. It is said that this treatment reduces the appearance of stretch marks by anywhere between 20 to 60%, so it could be an effective option for you if reducing the appearance of the stretch marks is one of your main concerns.
It should be noted that insurance companies consider the treatment of stretch marks along with the necessary dermatology appointments, procedures and medications to be a cosmetic procedure and will therefore likely not be covered under these policies and can be very costly!
“How Can I Best Manage my Post-Partum Stretch Marks?”
Tips on How to Care for and Aid in Post-Partum Stretch Mark Recovery
There is no ‘cure-all’ for post-partum stretch marks. You should start caring for your stretch marks before you even give birth. Eating well, staying hydrated and using gentle moisturizers can help to keep your skin healthy and supple which could help the overall severity of post-partum stretch marks.
After pregnancy, you can use good quality moisturizers to keep your skin healthy and to aid in skin recovery to help lighten stretch marks a little bit faster. It is best to start treatment early as treating early stretch marks is much more effective than trying to treat much older stretch marks. However, this does not mean there is such a thing as ‘starting too late with stretch mark treatment and care.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that different treatments may work better for different people and therefore you should start with a visit to your doctor or dermatologist so you can figure out what will work best for your skin.
Products to Aid in Stretch Mark Recovery
Check out some of the best-rated post-partum stretch mark products online below:
1) Palmers Cocoa Butter Lotion
This product is rated as the best overall post-partum stretch mark cream. It is full of good, hydrating ingredients like cocoa butter, shea butter, vitamin E, coconut oil and others.
This is another great skin care product that has the added benefit of being completely organic, fragrance, parabens, mineral oil and petroleum-free and therefore safe for both mom and baby pre- and post-partum.
This product is one of the most popular for scar treatment and therefore, stretch mark treatment (as stretch marks are essentially scar tissue). This product is made up of a blend of botanical extracts, emollient oils and vitamins that help support the healthy functioning of skin cells, maintenance of skin hydration levels and collagen production. Plus, it is lightweight and comfortable on the skin.
4) Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
Keeping in mind that retinoids should be avoided when pregnant or breastfeeding, this product is amazing at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and helps them look less apparent on the skin. It does this by helping to slowly increase the skin’s production of collagen.
To Sum It All Up…
Growing a baby and giving birth – is a big deal! Your body goes through a lot to create a new life and sometimes that leaves a scar (well, more accurately post-partum stretch marks). These are nothing to be ashamed of! However, if they are impacting your self-confidence there are a few steps you can take to help your body heal. While these are not likely to ever completely disappear, there are many ways to help lighten the appearance of these stretch marks. Above, we discussed some cosmetic procedures, products and self-care tips you can use to help your body heal faster. We hope that you found these tips and resources helpful!
Remember, you are doing so great and have absolutely nothing to feel ashamed of as most new moms will develop post-partum stretch marks. These will soon fade, but you will have your new little bundle of joy forever!